Realize Live 2023 Day One: The importance of the digital journey

The digital journey for manufacturers is an arduous one, but it can have a meaningful impact that goes well beyond the bottom line.

By Chris Vavra June 13, 2023
Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

Digitalization insights

  • Digitalization and digital transformation are about the journey and about utilizing all the tools available to make better products that have a positive impact.
  • These tools allow companies to make better insights in a shorter period of time, which can help save lives.

Siemens Realize Live event at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas emphasized the importance of digital transformation and how it will change manufacturing. It’s more than creating new products, though: It’s the process and the journey in this growing digital world that matters most. Companies need to transform and that’s what Siemens emphasized a lot during their presentations on Monday.

“Transformation is top of mind for every single one of our customers and we are here to help them on the digitalization journey,” said Brenda​ Discher, head of communication and senior vice president of business strategy and marketing for Siemens Digital Industries.

Four challenges companies face on the digitalization journey

Discher said companies and customers are facing new challenges they didn’t have to consider before “Every customer we work with around the globe is going through incredible headwinds,” she said. “It’s not just about making the best product anymore. Improving cost, cheaper, better quality.”

She said there are four challenges — the four C’s — companies are facing right now

  • Climate. Discher said companies need to think about what their net zero and sustainability agendas will be.

  • COVID-19. “As much as we want to think it’s over,” Discher said, “the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyone.”

  • Conflict. There are global conflicts all over the world — starting with the war in Ukraine — that are causing major supply chain strains and limiting the ability to gather the necessary resources in some cases.

  • Competition. The skills gap, Discher said, is causing demand for quality workers to ramp up. “Never did we think the talent shortage would be a major factor,” she said.

More than that, though, Discher said, is clock speed. “How fast can I be a more resilient organization by adopting digitalization? Companies need to automate and quickly deliver a return on investment (ROI),” she said.

There are many software and hardware tools available to make it happen, she said. “We’re about enabling customer in their industries to transform everything including the industry they are in.”

Making the digital transformation journey real

Tony Hemmelgarn, president and CEO of Siemens Digital Industries Software, emphasized how the company is emphasizing business transformation and “making it real.”

Tony Hemmelgarn, president and CEO of Siemens Digital Industries Software, at Siemens Realize Live 2023. Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

Tony Hemmelgarn, president and CEO of Siemens Digital Industries Software, at Siemens Realize Live 2023. Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

“The drive to make products faster is relentless and now more is being asked,” he said. “It’s about being sustainable and building a better product and it has to be an integral part of the process.”

Sustainability is a key driver for many companies and their bottom line. Hemmelgarn said digitalization across the product lifecycle can have a major impact. He said 80% of a product’s environmental impact is determined at the concept phase.

Using technology such as digital twins and the software behind it can help companies find ways to reduce the environmental impact. It is a process, though, and no one company can expect to go from 80 to 0% instantly. It’s impractical and impossible. That’s part of the journey, though. Sometimes it’s the small and incremental gains.

Digitalization can save lives

Auto racing might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of digitalization, but it is very much front of mind for Brad Keselowski. Keselowski is a NASCAR Sprint Cup champion (2012) and an owner of Roush Fenway Keselowski (RFK) Racing, one of many teams competing in the NASCAR Cup series. He also owns Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing (KAM), which emphasizes additive manufacturing.

Brad Keselowski, owner of Roush Fenway Keselowski (RFK) Racing, discussed how digitalization helped improve the safety of his race cars and the positive impact it had on his teammate, Chris Buescher. Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

Brad Keselowski, owner of Roush Fenway Keselowski (RFK) Racing, discussed how digitalization helped improve the safety of his race cars and the positive impact it had on his teammate, Chris Buescher. Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

He echoed Hemmelgarn’s comment about making it real, adding, “What does it mean? How does it affect our lives? Digital manufacturing and engineering is real because they’re solving problems,” he said.

Keselowski said they had to make many changes to their cars after they abandoned the previous generation of their cars for a new model. “There were a lot of questions because it’s a new product lifecycle,” he said. “Our challenge is to do better than everyone else.”

That challenge is easier said than done because of the deadlines they faced. “We don’t have years or months. Quite literally, the season starts whether you’re ready or not.”

And they found a key problem early on with the bracket that holds the seat together after his teammate, Chris Buescher, was involved in a crash. “We tore the car down to the ground and found things we didn’t like,” Keselowski said.

He said they used digital manufacturing and ran simulations of the load case studies and worked on developing a solution that would be less dangerous and harmful to the driver.

The results were borne out when Buescher’s car crashed and flipped five times at the 2022 Coca-Cola 600 race. He was able to walk away under his own power when it could have been a much worse result for him. Later that season, he won his first race of the year at Bristol and was there to welcome his daughter with his wife.

“He was there with his wife and he was healthy,” Keselowski said. “This is what makes digitalization it real to me. Real lives are affected by this.”

Chris Vavra, web content manager, CFE Media and Technology, cvavra@cfemedia.com.


Author Bio: Chris Vavra is senior editor for WTWH Media LLC.